Even in their mother tongue, word choice matters. Berthe and Marie are told that they are never to say that their mother stayed overnight in the home of a stranger to finish sewing the woman’s wedding dress; they are to say, instead, that their mother was clever with her hands.
In this subtle detail, readers understand more about the change in the Carette family situation than any details about the neighbourhood or language skills or tradespeople. Monsieur Carette died about a year ago, and the insurance money from the estate has not yet been paid out.
On moving day, soft snow falls, “like graying lace”. Things are not just changing–the lace would be some other colour, in some other state–but deteriorating. Everything is still handled properly (sheets of La Presse put down on the floors, so that the movers do not track in the snow) but the standards are other than they would have been, had the family remained intact, with a patriarch’s provisions.